Choosing Online Data Backup: 5 Questions to Ask

Cloud storage is one of the biggest technology buzzwords, freeing people from their hard drives and USB cables and allowing them to store precious data in one centralized, virtual location where it’s accessible from anywhere, from any device. As dozens of storage providers continue to pop up, wading through the choices can seem, well, cloudy. When evaluating cloud providers, ask these five questions to get an insight over what the cloud vendor can and can’t do for you.

How Much Will It Cost?

1.) There are cloud-based backup systems that run the gamut from online storage free accounts to paid, automated backup. While it’s wonderful that cost isn’t a deterrent to securing your data, researching what you’ll get, and what you’ll need to pay if you want to upgrade your plan, is a common sense place to begin when selecting online storage providers.

How Can I Retrieve My Data?

2.) Uploading data to the cloud is so simple it’s a common assumption that getting your data out of the cloud will be just as easy. In reality, that’s not always true. Bandwidth limits how quickly you can download data, so a provider with a low bandwidth rate can mean you will have to spend hours on file recovery. Some providers insist on preparing DVDs of your files, which is not convenient if you need to restore from backup. It’s better finding this information out upfront than to rely on assumptions that may be incorrect. The South Carolina Bar Association provides a detailed list of questions to ask potential vendors.

Can I Back Up Everything?

3.) Not all online storage systems allow you to back up the very files you would need to restore your computer in the event of a data crash. Find out whether you can back up only the personal files — those you create, such as spreadsheets or photographs, and those you acquire, such as MP3s — or whether you can back up system-critical files that you would need to restore a computer after a hardware failure. Then, select the cloud storage provider or providers that allow you to store all of the files that you need to preserve.

How Is Data Secured?

4.) Data breaches or natural disasters could leave your data vulnerable to theft or loss. Determine what steps the vendor takes to secure the physical safety of your files from natural and human-made threats. Data encryption, private servers, firewalls, and regular security audits help protect data from others while disaster preparedness and redundancy measures can help safeguard your data in the event of natural disasters such as fires and floods. Knowing what steps the vendor is taking to address security can also help you plan what additional steps you may need to take, such as keeping your own external backup.

What About File Sharing?

5.) Not all cloud-based storage systems allow you to share files online. If the ability to share files with colleagues is your prime consideration, there are ample utilities that do this well, and there are also online backup providers that allow you to add file sharing for an extra fee.

Image by FutUndBeidl pursuant to the terms of Creative Commons license.

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